Since the documents went online, people have used the collection to discover relatives they thought had died during World War II had actually survived, and the family members reunited, said Linda Levi, the archive director at the JDC.
“This accessibility is critical,” she said, noting that similar searches for relatives could previously have taken years.
As a leader in this niche field of philanthropy, their [Polonsky] foundation has supported digitization projects at the American Jewish Archives; Oxford University; Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; the Jewish Theological Seminary; and the New York Public Library. Among the works digitized were a large breadth of documents by Isaac Newton at the Cambridge Library, as well as the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
For the first time in its history, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is making a collection of its historic records and photographs from the Holocaust period available online. The website – http://www.jdc.org/sharedlegacy – enables the public, especially Holocaust survivors and their families, to perform searches for themselves or others they know on a database of more than 500,000 names and to view and identify photos from 14 countries where JDC operated during and after the war. This will help JDC, known to millions as “The Joint,” fill in the blanks about its impact during this tumultuous time in Jewish history.
The website will allow users to search names the database compiled from historic documents and JDC client lists from operations in Barcelona, Shanghai, Kobe, Vilna, Australia, South America and the JDC Emigration Service in Vienna and Munich. A group of volunteer genealogists helped the JDC Global Archives create the database, and are adding new names each week. JDC’s website is being launched at a time when a number of leading organizations and museums are making newly-digitized Holocaust era records available online, allowing broad public access for the first time ever.
“For six decades, the vast majority of this data has been available only to professional researchers,” said JDC CEO Steven Schwager. “Now, thanks to technology, survivors and their descendants can directly engage with our shared history.”
Users can also explore and identify people they know in photo galleries of 1,500 photos from Austria, Belgium, China, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain. JDC is also inviting the public to tag photos and share their JDC stories from this period in history. JDC was responsible for caring for hundreds of thousands of Jews in places from Cuba to Portugal during and after World War II.